When you think of “brand” or “branding” what immediately comes to mind?
Your business name? A catchy tagline? The look of your website? Oh…and how about that famous logo?
Yes, these elements are important, but they only touch the surface of what a brand entails.
As a business owner, you cannot make the mistake of putting all the weight of your brand on your logo. It’s important to know that your brand is the complete story of what you want to communicate about your business, and the perception that you leave in the hearts and minds of your audience.
Jeff Bezos, the founder and CEO of Amazon.com said it best…
”Your brand is what people say about you when you leave the room.”
That’s why before you even think about creative, logos, or marketing – you must have clarity on what your brand truly includes. So here are what I consider to be the 5 key elements of a brand:
1. Brand Purpose
The first step of any brand building activity to is define and understand your why. Why you choose to do what you do? Why do you exist? Why do you matter?
The best illustration of this is from Simon Sinek’s book and TED talk Start With Why – which I believe should be required reading and viewing for all leaders and entrepreneurs! He explains that the reason the most powerful brands in the world succeed (think Apple, Starbucks, Nike) is not because of what they do, or how they do it – but because of WHY they do what they do.
Starbucks is not in the business of selling coffee. They are in the business of delivering a third place between home and work – and creating the ultimate brand experience for its customers.
Your brand purpose is your rally cry. It’s a powerful force that can motivate your team and your customers to be a part of your bigger brand story.
2. Brand Positioning
In this noisy business landscape, your number one goal is to stand out and set yourself apart from others in your niche. Well, your brand positioning is all about claiming that unique space in the minds of your target audience and the marketplace.
When developing your overall positioning, there are 3 questions that you must answer to establish your point of differentiation and make your brand the ‘go-to choice’ instead of the alternative:
- What is the exact category that my brand is in? It’s important to understand what market are you looking to dominate, where the opportunities are, and if there are any gaps you can fill.
- Who is my “best” target audience? You cannot, and should not be all things to all people. That’s why you must narrow your target market down to your ideal customer” and really understand their specific needs and pain points.
- What really sets my brand apart relative to the competition? Every brand should look to deliver a unique story in the market. What is it about your brand that makes you the rockstar of your industry? This is why also building your personal brand important. While there may be similar products/services in the marketplace – there is only one YOU.
Once you can clearly answer these questions, then you’re much closer to setting your brand up for positional power.
3. Brand Promise
In our personal lives, promises mean a lot to us when it comes to building trust with other people. Well that same principle applies when it comes to the relationships we have with brands.
When a brand conveys a promise, it is communicating a guarantee of value to its audience.
In many ways, your brand’s promise is a direct extension of your positioning, and the expectation that its sets.
For example, Walmart positions its brand as being the leading low-cost retailer. So what is their promise based on their positioning? Simply – “Save Money. Live Better.” Anytime a customer visits a Walmart store, it’s what they come to expect. Every single time.
4. Brand Personality
If you could describe your business as a person – what human characteristics would you choose?
Confident? Serious? Fun?
And if building a personal brand is your priority – what would be your most compelling traits that best capture the essence of who you are?
What I’m talking about is your brand personality – the way your brand behaves, speaks, and engages with the outside world. It’s the more emotional and relatable side of your brand. This should also be considered your brand tone of voice.
Discovering, celebrating, and expressing your unique personality will not only help you better emotionally connect with your audience, but it will also further distinguish your brand from others in a similar niche.
Both Allstate and Geico are in the business of selling insurance. But they have totally different personalities, which is very apparent in their respective marketing approach – Allstate’s prominent use of the deep-voiced actor Dennis Haysbert vs. the quirky and silly Geico Gecko frog.
The key is – when you deliver your total brand experience, you must make sure your most authentic personality is what really shines through.
5. Brand Identity
Now this is where the logo gets its time in the spotlight. Your logo and other tangible aesthetics such as your tagline, the colors you choose for your website, and even the actual name of your business- are all part of your brand identity system.
It’s main role? To trigger immediate recognition and recall for your brand.
However many people only associate identity with visual symbols…which is a huge mistake. That’s because brands can be both identified and remembered not just from how they look – but also their other sensory elements, especially sound.
For example, try watching your favorite online video with the sound turned off. While you may get some level of engagement through, that story is incomplete without the visceral accompaniment of audio. It’s wise to have an integrated multi-sensory approach when it comes to communicating your brand identity, especially in this new media landscape.
So remember…your brand is not just your logo. It is a interconnected suite of expectations, experiences, promises, benefits, and identity symbols that deliver your brand’s story to the masses.
You really owe it to the success of your business, to approach brand development as a strategic process that considers all of these ingredients – not just the low-hanging visual elements. Then and only then, are you able to claim that coveted space in the hearts of your audience.
That’s when the real magic happens.
Question: Do you have a clear understanding of your brand? Please feel free to share your answers in the comments below and/or share on Facebook, Linkedin, or Twitter.